I’ve been watching the hell out of Les Miserables since I red-boxed it the other night. And–ok, fine. Here it is–even thought the Bible spells out the same concepts just as good, I can’t get enough of this story.
I’m being sappy. Whatever. I can’t help it.
I’m particularly stuck on the bad guy Javert. Bless his heart, he’s not even that bad. He just believes with all his might that rules are rules are rules, and if you break them, you get punished. End of conversation.
(Can we stop and talk about how hilarious this cat is for a second?)
Javert’s line of thinking is not totally flawed: “Honest work. Just reward. That’s the way to please the Lord.” Sounds reasonable to me! Javert goes on to say that he was born in a prison and raised in the gutter–so if he, of all people, can make good choices, anyone can. And should.
I have a tendency to agree in, oh, EVERY way: “You messed up. This is what happens. Good luck getting anybody to love you or trust you again.” I look down on people who have wronged me, or on people who have just done wrong. Save your breath. Save your tears.
Except what about mercy and second chances? Does justice really mean following the law to perfection, and condemning those who mess up even once? What about helping people who are trapped and suffering? What about people who can’t even comprehend God’s unconditional love because they’ve never experienced it in the smallest sense here on earth?
Save your breath. Save your tears. I am stuck on this. What if Jesus had said these words to us? I’m sick over how judgmental I can be, out loud or in my own head. How can I be so hypocritical? I have been pardoned so many times for so many terrible things. How can I look at anyone and think that I’m better than they are? That certain people are just not as worthy as I am of love and forgiveness?
Oh surely I’m not that bad–I believe in God! I treat people who I love with respect and loyalty, and I value my friendships! I know the ten commandments, and I follow them!
Matthew 5:47 says “If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”
God means “Great! You believe in me, you half-ass my laws, and you’re nice to the people who are nice to you. Exactly how is that different from just about everyone on the planet?”
Jesus tells us in Matthew 22:37-40: “…’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
He follows up in James 1:27: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Jean Valjean seemed to have it all nailed down. Love God? Check. Help poor people? Check. Take care of orphan? Check.
In Javert’s eyes, Jean Valjean was a criminal on the run. He was breaking the law! But held up to the words of the Bible, Valjean knew more about justice and pleasing the Lord than Javert ever would.
“…to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Shocker: the world–with all its customs and lifestyles, governments and laws–is not always right.
And here’s the thing of it: nothing–nothing–is stopping us from doing the things that God commands of us. Love the Lord my God? I ought to be straight scrambling to feed the hungry and help the needy. Love my neighbor as myself? The parable of the Good Samaritan tells me I should be showing ridiculous compassion to my worst enemy.
What do these commands mean to us individually? Should I, as a naive mother of 3, prance downtown in the night and hand out buckets of money to homeless people laying in the street? Or can I take a different approach to helping the poor? Should I adopt a child, or can I make a difference in the lives of many children by wholeheartedly giving my time and talents? Should I keep my blog topics light and humorous, or should I write about the things that are important to God?
Do I hoard His gifts, or do I turn around and share them with whoever I lay eyes on?
Can I have this kind of courage? Can I prove that I understand justice? Can I show God how thankful I am for His mercy? Can I demonstrate His love to others who are traditionally unloved by society?
Can I do this? Can I pour myself out for God again and again and again, even when I am tired? Even when I have nothing left to give? Even if it will cost me my reputation, or my money, or my freedom, or my life?
I’m scared of knowing the right I should do, but not doing it. I don’t want to cheer for Valjean, but act like Javert.
I think it’s time to take this movie back.